Parafoveal processing in Chinese sentence reading by old readers: An eye-tracking study

Project: Research project

Project Details


The eye-tracking technique is a popular tool in psycholinguistic research of reading. By monitoring where the readers look at and when their eyes move as they read, researchers can infer the underlying reading processes. It is shown that readers obtain information for reading not just from the fixated word in foveal vision, but also from words in the parafovea. The region of effective vision in reading comprehension is called “perceptual span”. Readers can extract various information from parafoveal vision, including word form, pronunciation, and meaning (Yan et al., 2010). Most reading research has been conducted with alphabetic scripts. Given the unique features of logographic Chinese, it is not surprising that some reading processes are different across scripts (Tsang & Chen, 2012). One interesting difference is the effect of aging. While old English readers (> 65 years) make longer forward movements (saccades) and skip words more often than young readers, old Chinese readers make shorter forward saccades and skip words less often. The opposite pattern has been explained by the higher visual complexity of characters and the absence of spaces between words in Chinese, which make parafoveal processing particularly challenging for old Chinese readers because of their visual and cognitive declines associated with normal aging (Wang et al., 2018). Although this explanation makes intuitive sense, there are no existing studies that directly examine “how much” and “what kind of” information is available in the parafoveal processing of old Chinese readers.

The proposed project aims to fill this research gap. The perceptual span size and the type of information extracted in the parafovea will be directly examined, and compared with young readers (university students), in two eye-tracking experiments that adopt the moving window paradigm and boundary paradigm. Specifically, readers will be shown different amounts and types of parafoveal information to see how the manipulations influence reading speed and performance. In addition, given that the lack of inter-word spaces and high visual complexity of characters may contribute to the inefficient parafoveal processing of old Chinese readers, an experiment will also test whether providing colour cues to word boundaries, which is helpful to beginning Chinese readers (Pan et al., 2021), can help improve parafoveal processing of old Chinese readers. Theoretically, the proposed project will help understand how visual and cognitive declines influence Chinese reading. Practically, it will provide insights in improving reading performance of old Chinese readers.
Effective start/end date1/01/23 → …


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